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cow, ibex, marmot, Saint Bernard Switzerland’s ‘Big Four’ animals on display in Zurich

Pop quiz: What’s the national animal of Switzerland? Actually, there isn’t one. But the Swiss National Museum is highlighting the “Big Four” – along with their cultural and historical significance. 

Multimedia exhibition Swiss Bestiaryexternal link, which opens on Friday, features a mix of iconic wild and domestic animals: the cow, ibex, marmot and Saint Bernard. 

“We tried to find the balance between nature and biology, and culture and history,” curator Jacqueline Perifanakis told “The human-animal connection is very conducive to that.” 

Beautifully prepared mounted specimens, borrowed from institutions around the country, are the crowning feature of each section. 

“You’ll notice that the cow has horns – we chose her especially because that’s natural,” Perifanakis pointed out. Manmade items like cowbells and wooden toys are also on display. Across the hall, next to the Saint Bernard, there’s a brandy barrel – even though these were never really worn by the robust mountain dogs. 

Each animal is presented on a pine pedestal featuring a life-like slice of habitat. Underneath each one is a discovery zone for children. For example, they can use binoculars to search for ibex or crawl through a marmot burrow. 

Though the specimens themselves are out of reach, there are other things that visitors can touch – a must, considering that the show is aimed at families. 

“It’s very important to me that people can touch something,” display designer Martina Nievergelt told “I always try to make exhibitions child-friendly. And I want the adults to enjoy them, too.” 

Swiss Bestiary runs until March 11, 2018.


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